Sustainable Spark

A carbon neutrality assignment ignited an interest that guided graduate Vanessa Goh to her current electrifying occupation. The Institute's Practicum in Environmental Science offers students the opportunity to work on real-life environmental problems with external clients.  Students gain research and professional development skills while working on cutting-edge sustainability issues.  

Vanessa’s Practicum team worked with the City of Hermosa Beach to estimate how various policy scenarios could reduce the City’s greenhouse gas emissions. Her portion of the project focused on the source and use of electricity in Hermosa Beach. Vanessa examined the practical application of renewable sources and alternative electric systems.

After receiving her degree this past spring, Vanessa applied for a position with the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) — a nonprofit organization that promotes energy efficiency worldwide through research, education, and advocacy. ASE works to encourage business, government, environmental, and consumer leaders to use energy efficiency as a means to achieve a healthier economy, a cleaner environment, and greater energy security.  ASE was impressed with Vanessa’s written proficiency and expertise in energy and renewable systems. The nonprofit cited her section of the Practicum’s final report as a major reason for hiring her as a Local Project Leader with their PowerSave Schools Program.

powersave schools program

PowerSave Schools empowers students to make a difference in the way their schools use energy. Energy costs are an enormous expense for U.S. schools – approximately $6 billion each year. PowerSave Schools helps educate students about energy and the importance of energy efficiency, and provides training in using a diagnostic toolkit to assess energy usage. Participation in the program typically results in schools reducing energy usage by 5 to15 percent.

Vanessa described her role. “I'm in charge of fifteen schools ranging from K-12 over three different districts. I oversee the programs at all the schools and keep each on track to save energy throughout the year.  My goal is to explain why it's so important to conserve energy and inspire students to spread the word throughout their school.” 

She continued, “Later in the year I help perform energy audits of classrooms and write up reports on the findings. I’ve already performed Energy Hog assemblies at schools and many students have presented energy saving ideas to the faculty as well as create posters, make announcements, and participate in Student Energy Audit Trainings.”

Some schools have saved thousands of dollars through the program. Vanessa added that the majority of participants get the money they saved returned to them in the form of a check from utility company Southern California Edison.

In December Vanessa will speak at the Pomona Unified School District’s first annual Young Women’s Empowerment Conference. She said, “Renewable energy and sustainable systems really caught my attention when I was in school. I’m so happy to continue to follow my passion and motivate students."